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« May 2007 »

Memo to Quentin Mastin: YOU ARE DUMB.

Fucking Tennessee. Long-regarded in these halls as the Stupidest State. Other states might be more hateful, other states might be crazier, but for pure, unadulterated dumbassitude, Tennessee's your place. I don't know how the hell the state produced Al Gore. By all rights, his new book, The Assault On Reason, should be, you know. An actual guide on how to assault reason. A battle plan. Or a cookbook.

So when I heard that a small town in Tennessee thought it would be a good idea to subject a bunch of sixth graders to an impromptu drill, telling the field-tripping youngsters that there were random gunmen outside, and that they should hide under the tables, I wasn't surprised. It sounds like the kind of thing they'd do in Tennessee.

And when I heard that in service of the drill, teachers drove around flashing their headlights, and one of them pulled a hoodie over their head and rattled the locked door to the room the kids were hiding in, well, I thought it once again sounded like the kind of thing they'd do in Tennessee. I'm half-surprised they didn't order official Kleboald and Harris trench coats, but then again, it's small-town Tennessee, so they probably don't carry them at the Sears.

Really, it all sounded like the kind of well-meaning, but misguided, act that's all too common in the world. Respond to a deadly school shooting by seeing what the kids would do in a "real" situation. I mean, it's stupid, and it's wrong, but at least it's stupid and wrong within the realm of comprehensibility. While you know people shouldn't think like that, you at least understand that they do, and to a certain extent, why. Which, for Tennessee, would actually be on the eastern side of the bell curve.

And then we learned a little bit more. That the sixth graders were on their annual end-of-year trip, a tradition in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. A traditional trip that had its own tradition - every year, on the big trip, teachers would play a prank on the students. Wacky hijinks would then ensue. This being Tennessee, I presume a healthy portion of hootin' and/or a-hollerin' would also ring out. Except, you know, when teacher Quentin Mastin's idea of a fun prank is to tell his students that they could be shot in the face at any moment.

Mastin, along with assistant principal Don Bartch, got suspended over the prank. School spokeswoman Cheryl Harris explained that the teachers "never meant for it to get carried to the point it did", which is, I think you'll agree, the kind of idea a complete shit-for-brains would reject on grounds of its sheer stupidity. In 2007, a few weeks after Virginia Tech, in the world of zero tolerance and constant fear, let's just pretend to be gunmen! It'll be hilarious!

Once they realized the kids were scared shitless, which anyone with three functioning neurons could have predicted, they tried to turn it into an educational experience. You know, play like it was mandated by the No Child Left Above Tables Act. And it being Tennessee, some parents are actually defending the teachers' decision. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"[The prank] has been blown out of proportion. My child is in the safest environment, and we are picky parents. My heart just aches for Mr. Bartch and what he has been put through. - Parent-teacher organization president Cherry Ross, who is not, it turns out, named after the least popular flavor in the short-lived Friendsicles frozen dessert sitcom tie-in fiasco*.

What they've been through? Really? They are suffering because of the consequences of the kind of fuck up that elevates the phrase "should've known better" to a cosmic truth. It's the way the universe is supposed to work. I know the concept of getting punished for fucking up is alien after six years of Dubya's America, but trust me, this is how things are supposed to go. It's how people, even in Tennessee, learn.

*Convoluted syntax ensures no Tennessee resident will read it and get angry!

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